The question of whether cyclocross bikes have suspension is a complex one!
In general, cyclocross purists will not have suspension on their bikes if they are used for competing. However, there are many cyclocross bikes available with suspension, and these are excellent for longer rides or more relaxing leisurely off-roading.
To sum up in a nutshell:
Do Cyclocross Bikes Have Suspension?
In general, the majority of cyclocross bikes are designed for smooth courses that don’t require suspensions. However, variations of efficient cyclocross bikes exist with fork suspension.
In this article, I’ll look at reasons why you might want to have suspension or not on your cyclocross bike. In general, this will be determined by some of these factors:
- The terrain you intend to ride on
- What you intend to do on your cyclocross bike
- Are you competing in official competitions or not
What Is A Cyclocross Bike? (Including Suspension Facts)
Generally, a cyclocross bike is defined as a specific drop-bar bike used in a racing discipline known as cyclocross.
Initially, these bikes were designed to be lightweight modified road bicycles.
However, during recent times, they have progressed in a slightly different direction. Today’s cyclocross bikes can even be a more dedicated line of sizeable and bulky bicycles. This is because these bikes are meant to travel through courses of grass, mud, and sometimes even sand.
As a result, some bike frames utilize geometrical dynamics to optimally navigate the more technical terrain they’re made for. This enables them to be durable while remaining fast and lightweight for races.
Similarly, it’s not unusual to find cyclocross bikes with taller bottom brackets, a shorter frame reach, and a generally higher position than a standard road bike.
For instance, you can see these kinds of bikes designed for muddier cyclocross courses. Where through a knobbly tire, they can get mud clearance at their fork and frame.
Once again, however, this is exceedingly specific to the type of terrain they’re designed for.
In general, cyclocross bikes can be exceptionally diverse.
For example, they can be bulky for technical landscapes, with suspension added for the greater smoothness of the ride. However, they can also be lighter and lack a suspension for short and fast races.
Lighter features enable racers to remain agile when carrying their bikes over their shoulder during rougher terrain.
A rule of thumb is that if you are looking for speed, no suspension is better. If you are looking to enjoy cyclocross riding on a range of terrain outside of competition, then having suspension may be better.
Let’s take a closer look at suspension forks on Cyclocross bikes:
Suspension Forks on Cyclocross Bikes
With advances in cycling technology, cyclocross bikes are constantly changing. Ideally, these advancements make the bicycles faster and lighter so that racers aren’t restricted by bulkier options.
Generally, cyclocross bikes have a conventional design that’s imposed by the UCI. It restricts racers to narrow tires and drop bars.
However, it’s worth noting that there’s no such restriction for suspensions.
When it comes to suspension in cyclocross bikes, they vary depending on what the racer may prefer.
Usually, if you’re planning a 5+ hour gravel race, you’d favor a suspension form as it reduces flats and body fatigue with a maximum weight penalty of only two pounds.
Similarly, some exceptional suspension fork options also exist, such as the FOX AX fork, which works incredibly well with bumpy courses.
Ideally, this serves as the preferred suspension for cyclocross bikes for two main reasons: its weight and its axle to crown length.
Consequentially, when looking for suspension fork options in a cyclocross bike, you’d want to choose one that weighs two pounds or less while having an optimal axle to the crown length of 409mm.
These options provide the best amount of mobility while remaining sturdy on a modern-day cyclocross track.
Resultantly, though suspensions are frowned upon in cyclocross bikes for added weight and decreased acceleration, they can work well if you choose wisely.
However, if you’re still doubtful over whether to opt for a suspension, the following are some pros and cons you can consider for a cyclocross suspension:
Pros of a Suspension
Usually, cyclocross bikes don’t have suspensions as they’re frowned upon for adding weight and slowing bicycles in high-paced cyclocross races.
However, exceptions to this do exist.
And, overall, having a suspension can lead to numerous disadvantages and benefits alike. A suspension can be beneficial in several ways, including:
Though professional racers usually just lower tire pressure for the cyclocross bikes instead of a suspension, that doesn’t necessarily absorb all shock on impact.
When traversing challenging terrain, you’re expected to off-road a lot.
And, without anything to keep your bike steady during jolts, it can be a discomforting ride.
As a result, with suspensions, a rider has more traction and control over their ride. They work by absorbing shocks while dampening the irregularities of the ride.
They would be the ideal option for long gravel track journeys or simply cruising through a terrain of moderate technicality.
Other than the discomfort of impacts, another crucial aspect to consider is the condition of your bike. Though not having a suspension may make your bike faster, it’s also significantly less durable.
Cycling through rough terrain would immensely affect your bike’s speed, and that results in body fatigue.
Consequentially, with the help of suspension forks, the body fatigue caused by damping vibrations lessens significantly.
Cons of a Suspension
As mentioned earlier, the biggest disadvantage cyclists claim is the added weight of a suspension.
When you’re in a cyclocross race, you’re expected to be fast and agile. As a result, the added weight is highly frowned upon.
Though the weight is practically negligible to a human being, it can still make a sizeable difference.
In general, a complete suspension can add up to five pounds to your bike’s total weight, which can be a highly considerable amount.
In effect of such added weight, you’d instantly notice that reaching a particular speed would take substantially more energy.
A similar consequence to added weight is the subsequent result of slower speeds.
Through a suspension’s weight, your bike slows down. And this makes longer routes exceptionally more difficult as it means you have to expend more energy.
Additionally, since suspensions were made to absorb shock, the absorbed energy reduces momentum, resulting in a more exhausting journey.
What Can You Use Instead Of Suspension On Cyclocross Bikes?
Though a suspension may not be your perfect alternative for a comfortable cyclocross race, it’s worth noting that there are numerous other ways you can absorb shock instead.
The following are a few of those alternatives:
A wheelbase is defined as the distance from the center of the front axle to the rear axle.
This distance has a direct correlation with your bike’s turning speed, stability, and responsiveness. Consequentially, a longer wheelbase would provide a smoother ride with more natural compliance.
However, though it makes your bike more stable, I believe it’s worth noting that this also results in slower turns.
Wider tires are often preferred for various reasons.
For starters, the added volume is highly effective in absorbing jolts, shocks, and impacts on technical terrain. Meanwhile, wider tires can also provide better grip while improving cornering and mounting.
Overall, I recommend it for a smoother and more comfortable ride.
Another crucial aspect that contributes to comfort is your riding position.
For a more relaxed riding position, you’d want a bike with its handlebar above the saddle.
Similarly, physical therapists have also suggested sitting in a riding position that reduces strain on shoulders, wrists, and hands while remaining upright.
Before you consider adding a suspension to your cyclocross bike, you should first think about your purpose of riding and the kind of routes you’d be taking.
Similarly, if you plan on adding a suspension, I recommend considering the frequent maintenance it entails along with the duration of your routes.
Furthermore, if you want to prioritize lightweight, flexibility, and responsiveness, then you’d likely not want to add a suspension.
Instead, you may want to opt for alternatives, such as wider tires or a longer wheelbase.
Conversely, if you want a durable bike and a more comfortable ride for your terrain of choice, suspensions are built for that very reason.
Overall, the decision is yours to make. As it is affected immensely by preference and your own standard of comfort. Let us know what you decide in the comments below. Happy riding!